The Independent View: The Digital Economy Bill should not be pushed through without proper scrutiny

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, writes about the Digital Economy Bill:

The Open Rights Group would like to thank the Lib Dems for taking a strong policy stance against the Digital Economy Bill’s disconnection and web blocking proposals.

The biggest danger now is that Parliament will not debate or amend the Bill at all. After the budget, the Bill could be passed with little or no debate, as the election must be called within the next few weeks. The result could be that the Bill becomes law in very bad shape.

The Lib Dems have a very significant role to play here. They have already assumed a leading position on this issue, having adopted forward thinking policy against disconnection, and in favour of openness and creativity.

The Lib Dems are also a party that strongly wishes to promote the constitutional position of Parliament against the executive, and build accountability. Liberal Democrats have a deep faith in the power of democratic debate.

Yet – in the face of a dangerous and controversial Bill – government ministers are proposing to remove that debate and parliamentary accountability. The likelihood is that ministers will try to prevent Parliamentary debate from happening, in order that the Bill is passed, with the disconnection clauses intact.

If the executive gets its way, whatever gets passed into the Bill will be agreed behind closed doors before wash-up.

Liberal Democrat MPs can choose to follow the example of the hundreds of people who are now emailing MPs to demand a debate.

Their reasons for asking for a debate are extremely proper: and any backbench MP should understand them. The Bill is technical and deep problems are unresolved. Rushing through disconnection and website blocking would be undemocratic and an abuse of Parliamentary power; it would show contempt for back benchers and be a serious blow for the legitimacy of the legislation.

For all these reasons, Liberal Democrats should lead the charge and demand a public debate.

And members should write to their MP: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/speakout/extremeinternetl

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

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11 Comments

  • Iain Coleman 17th Mar '10 - 3:22pm

    I got the following response from my MP, Mark Lazarowicz (Labour):

    “Thank you for your email. I understand your concerns about some aspects of the Digital Economy Bill. I have been following the debate carefully, and there are certainly a number of points in the proposals which I believe need to be substantially amended or withdrawn.

    However, I think it is unlikely that the Digital Economy Bill will go through Parliament in its present form. That is because when there is unfinished legislation at the end of Parliament, there is a short period (known informally as the ‘wash up’) when any outstanding business is dealt with quickly. This process, however, can only be used for legislation which is uncontroversial and has cross-party support.

    In these circumstances, I cannot see how any of the controversial aspects of the Bill could be passed before the election. I agree with you that it would be wrong if they were, but this doesn’t seem to me to be a likely prospect. I will continue to take a close interest in the Bill, in any event.”

    Hope he’s right.

  • People, many of you are quite naive on this subject and that causes many more issues

  • Jim Killock really does not understand the bigger issues of protecting creative copyright. The pipes must be cleared of illegal material and the ‘public’ must pay one way or another.

    Get rid of Limewire, Bitcomet, etc and we’ll see how people then share things illegally

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